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LATIN LANGUAGE

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Originally appearing in Volume V16, Page 246 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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LATIN LANGUAGE. ,. Earliest Records of its Area.—Latin was the language spoken in Rome and in the plain of Latium in the 6th or 7th century B.c.—the earliest period from which we have any contemporary record of its existence. But it is as yet impossible to determine either, on the one hand, whether the archaic inscription of Praeneste (see below), which is as-signed with great probability to that epoch, represents exactly the language then spoken in Rome; or, on the other, over how much larger an area of the Italian peninsula, or even of the lands to the north and west, the same language may at that date have extended. In the 5th century B.C. we find its limits within the peninsula fixed on the north-west and south-west by Etruscan (see ETRURIA: Language) ; on the east, south-east, and probably north and north-east, by Safine (Sabine) dialects (of the Marsi, Paeligni, Samnites, Sabini and Picenum, qq.v.); but on the north we have no direct record of Sabine speech, nor of any non-Latinian tongue nearer than Tuder and Asculum or earlier 'Ilan the 4th century B.C. (see UMBRIA, IGUVIUM, PICENTJM). 1V,: know however, both from tradition and from the archaeological data, that the Safine tribes were in the 5th century B.C. migrating, or at least sending off swarms of their younger folk, farther and farther southward into the peninsula. Of the 'anguages they were then displacing we have no explicit recordsave in the case of Etruscan in Campania, but it may be reason-ably inferred from the evidence of place-names and tribal names, combined with that of the Faliscan inscriptions, that before the Safine invasion some idiom, not remote from Latin, was spoken by the pre-Etruscan tribes down the length of the west coast (see FALISCI; VOLSCI; also ROME: History; LIGURIA; SICULI). 2. Earliest Roman Inscriptions.—At Rome, at all events, it is clear from the unwavering voice of tradition that Latin was spoken from the beginning of the city. Of the earliest Latin inscriptions found in Rome which were known in 1909, the oldest, the so-called Forum inscription," can hardly be referred with confidence to an earlier century than the 5th; the later, the well-known Duenos (= later Latin bonus) inscription, certainly belongs to the 4th; both of these are briefly described below (§§ 40, 41). 'At this date we have probably the period of the narrowest extension of Latin; non-Latin idioms were spoken in Etruria, Umbria, Picenum and in the Marsian and Volscian hills. But almost directly the area begins to expand again, and after the war with Pyrrhus the Roman arms had planted the language of Rome in her military colonies throughout the peninsula. When we come to the 3rd century B.C. the Latin inscriptions begin to be more numerous, and in them (e.g. the oldest epitaphs of the Scipio family) the language is very little removed from what it was in the time of Plautus. 3. The Italic Group of Languages.—For the characteristics and affinities of the dialects that have just been mentioned, see the article ITALY: Ancient Languages and Peoples, and to the separate articles on the tribes. Here if is well to point out that the only one of these languages which is not akin to Latin is Etruscan; on the other hand, the only one very closely resembling Latin is Faliscan, which with it forms what we may call the Latinian dialect of the Italic group of the Indo-European family of languages. Since, however, we have a far more complete knowledge of Latin than of any other member of the Italic group, this is the most convenient place in which to state briefly the very little than can be said as yet to have been ascertained as to the general relations of Italic to its sister groups. Here, as in many kindred questions, the work of Paul Kretschmer of Vienna (Einleitung in die Geschichte der griechischen Sprache, Gottingen, 1896) marked an important epoch in the historical aspects of linguistic study, as the first scientific attempt to interpret critically the different kinds of evidence which the Indo-European languages give us, not in vocabulary merely, but in phonology, morphology, and especially in their mutual borrowings, and to combine it with the non-linguistic data of tradition and archaeology. A certain number of the results so obtained have met with general acceptance and may be briefly treated here. It is, however, extremely dangerous to draw merely from linguistic kinship deductions as to racial identity, or even as to an original contiguity of habitation. Close resemblances in any two languages, especially those in their inner structure (morphology), may be due to identity of race, or to long neighbourhood in the earliest period of their development; but they may also be caused by temporary neighbourhood (for a longer or shorter period), brought about by migrations at a later epoch (or epochs). A particular change in sound or usage may spread over a whole chain of dialects and be in the end exhibited alike by them all, although the time at which it first began was long after their special and distinctive characteristics had become clearly marked. For example, the limitation of the word-accent to the last three syllables of a word in Latin and Oscan (see below)—a phenomenon which has left deep marks on all the Romance languages—demonstrably grew up between the 5th and and centuries B.C.; and it is a permissible conjecture that it started from the influence of the Greek colonies in Italy (especially Cumae and Naples), in whose language the same limitation (although with an accent whose actual character was probably more largely musical) had been established some centuries sooner. 4. Position of the Italic Group.—The Italic group, then, when compared with the other seven main " families " of Indo- European speech, in respect of their most significant differences, ranges itself thus: (i.) Back-palatal and Velar Sounds.—In point of its treatment of the Indo-European back-palatal and velar sounds, it belongs to the western or centum group, the name of which is, of course, taken from Latin; that is to say, like German, Celtic and Greek, it did not sibilate original k and g, which in Indo-Iranian, Armenian, Slavonic and Albanian have been converted into various types of sibilants (Ind.-Eur.* kmlom=Lat. centum, Gr. (O-Karov, Welsh cant, Eng. hund-(red), but Sans. Iatam, Zend satam) ; but, on the other hand, in company with just the same three western groups, and in contrast to the eastern, the Italic languages labialized the original velars (Ind.-Eur. * qod=Lat. quod, Osc. pod, Gr. iroS-(aaos), Welsh pwy, Eng. what, but Sans. kas, " who ?"). (ii.) Indo-European Aspirates.—Like Greek and Sanskrit, but in contrast to all the other groups (even to Zend and Armenian), the Italic group largely preserves a distinction between the Indo-European mediae aspiratae and mediae (e.g. between Ind.-Eur. dh and d, the former when initial becoming initially regularly Lat. f as in Lat. fec-i [cf. Umb. feia, " facial "], beside Gr. m-OrtK-a [cf. Sans. da-dha-ti, " he places "], the latter simply d as in domus, Gr. I6 ios). But the aspiratae, even where thus distinctly treated in Italic, became fricatives, not pure aspirates, a character which they only retained in Greek and Sanskrit. (iii.) Indo-European O.—With Greek and Celtic, Latin preserved the Indo-European o, which in the more northerly groups (Germanic, Balto-Slavonic), and also in Indo-Iranian, and, curiously, in Messapian, was confused with d. The name for olive-oil, which spread with the use of this commodity from Greek ( NaiFov) to Italic speakers and thence to the north, becoming by regular changes (see below) in Latin first *olaivom, then *oleivom, and then taken into Gothic and becoming alev, leaving its parent form to change further (not later than too Inc.) in Latin to oleum, is a particularly important example, because (a) of the chronological limits which are implied, however roughly, in the process just described, and (b) of the close association in time of the change of o to a with the earlier stages of the " sound-shifting " (of the Indo-European plosives and aspirates) in German; see Kretschmer, Einleit. p. 1i6, and the authorities he cites. (iv.) Accentuation.—One marked innovation common to the western groups as compared with what Greek and Sanskrit show to have been an earlier feature of the Indo-European parent speech was the development of a strong expiratory (sometimes called stress) accent upon the first syllable of all words. This appears early in the history of Italic, Celtic, Lettish (probably, and at a still later period) in Germanic, though at a period later than the beginning of the " sound-shifting." This extinguished the complex system of Indo-European accentuation, which is directly reflected in Sanskrit, and was itself replaced in Latin and Oscan by another system already mentioned, but not in Latin till it had produced marked effects upon the language (e.g. the degradation of the vowels in compounds as in confecio from con facio, inclicdo from in-claudo). This curious wave of accentual change (first pointed out by Dieterich, Kuhn's Zeitschrift, i., and later by Thurneysen, Revue celtique, vi. 312, Rheinisches Museum, xliii. 349) needs and deserves to be more closely investigated from a chronological standpoint. At present it is not clear how far it was a really connected process in all the languages. (See further Kretschmer, op. cit. p. 115, K. Brugmann, Kurze vergleichende Grammatik (1902-1904), p. 57, and their citations, especially Meyer-Lubke, Die Betonung im Gallischen (i9oi).) To these larger affinities may be added some important points in which the Italic group shows marked resemblances to other groups. 5. Italic and Celtic.—It is now universally admitted that the Celtic languages stand in a much closer relation than any other group to the Italic. It may even be doubted whether there was any real frontier-line at all between the two groups before the Etruscan invasion of Italy (see ETRURIA: Language; LIGuRIA). The number of morphological innovations on the Indo-European system which the two groups share, and which are almost if not wholly peculiar to them, is particularly striking. Of these the chief are the following. (i.) Extension of the abstract-noun stems in -ti- (like Greek ¢aril with Attic flaois, &c.) by an -n- suffix, as in Lat. mentio (stem mention-) = Ir. (er-)mitiu (stem miti-n-), contrasted with the same word without the n-suffix in Sans. mati-, Lat. mens, Ind.-Eur. *mn-ti-. A similar extension (shared also by Gothic) appears in Lat. iuventu-t-, 0. Ir. oitiu (stem oitiict-) beside the simple -tu- in nouns like sena,tus. (ii.) Superlative formation in -is-mmo- as in Lat. aegerrimus for *aegr-isrpmos, Gallic Ot4ioaun the name of a town meaning " the highest. (iii.) Genitive singular of the o-stems (second declension) in -i Lat. agri, O. Ir .(Ogam inscriptions) magi, " of a son." (iv.) Passive and deponent formation in -r, Lat. sequitur=Ir. sechedar," he follows." The originally active meaning of this curious -r suffix was first pointed out by Zimmer (Kuhn's Zeitschrift, 1888,xxx. 224), who thus explained the use of the accusative pronouns with these " passive " forms in Celtic; Ir. -m-berar, " I am carried," literally " folk carry me "; Umb. pir ferar, literally ignem feratur, though as pir is a neuter word (= Gr. aup) this example was not so convincing. But within a twelvemonth of the appearance of Zimmer's article, an Oscan inscription (Conway, Camb. Philol. Society's Proceedings, 1890, p. i6, and Italic Dialects, p. 113) was discovered containing the phrase ultiumam (iiivilam) sakrafir, "ultimam (imaginem) consecraverint " (or " ultima consecretur ") which demonstrated the nature of the suffix in Italic also. This originally active meaning of the -r form (in the third person singular passive) is the cause of the remarkable fondness for the " impersonal " use of the passive in Latin (e.g., itur in antiquam silvam, instead of eunt), which was naturally extended to all tenses of the passive (ventum est, &c.), so soon as its origin was forgotten. Fuller details of the development will be found in Conway, op. cit. p. 561, and the authorities there cited (very little isadded by K. Brugmann, Kurze vergl. Gramm. 1904, p. 596). (v.) Formation of the perfect passive from the -to- past participle, Lat. monitus (est), &c., Ir. leic-the, " he was left," iv-laced, " he has been left." In Latin the participle maintains its distinct adjectival character; in Irish (J. Strachan, Old Irish Paradigms, 1905, p. 50) it has sunk into a purely verbal form, just as the perfect participles in -us in Umbrian have been absorbed into the future perfect in -ust (entelust, " intenderit "; benust, " venerit ") with its impersonal passive or third plural active -us(s)so (probably standing for -ussor) as in benuso, " ventum erit " (or " venerint "). To these must be further added some striking peculiarities in phonology. (vi.) Assimilation of p to a Of in a following syllable as in Lat. quinque = Jr. colic, compared with Sans. pdnca, Gr. rr~em, Eng. five, Ind.-Eur. *penqe. (vii.) Finally—and perhaps this parallelism is the most important of all from the historical standpoint—both Italic and Celtic are divided into two sub-families which differ, and differ in the same way, in their treatment of the Ind.-Eur. velar tennis g. In both halves of each group it was labialized to some extent; in one half of each group it was labialized so far as to become p. This is the great line of cleavage (i.) between Latinian (Lat. quod, quando, quinque; Falisc. cuando) and Osco-Umbrian, better called Safine (Osc. pod, Umb. panic- [for *pandd] Osc.-Umb. pompe-, " five," in Osc. pumperias " nonae," Umb. pumpedia-, " fifth day of the month "); and (ii.) between Goidelic (Gaelic)Ir. coic, " five," maq, " son " modern Irish and Scotch Mac as in MacPherson) and Brythonic (Britannic) (Welsh pump, " five," Ap for map, as in Powel for Ap Howel). The same distinction appears elsewhere; Germanic belongs, broadly described, to the q-grou and Greek, broadly described, to the p-group. The ethnological bearing of the distinction within Italy is considered in the articles SABINI and VoLscI; but the wider questions which the facts suggest have as yet been only scantily discussed; see the references for the " Sequanian " dialect of Gallic (in the inscription of Coligny, whose language preserves q) in the article CELTS: Language. From these primitive affinities we must clearly distinguish the numerous words taken into Latin from the Celts of north Italy within the historic period; for these see especially an interesting study by J. Zwicker, De vocabulis et rebus Gallicis sive Transpadanis dpud Vergilium (Leipzig dissertation, 1905). 6. Greek and Italic.—We have seen above (§ 4, i., ii., iii.) certain broad characteristics which the Greek and the Italic groups of language have in common. The old question of the degree of their affinity may be briefly noticed. There are deep-seated differences in morphology, phonology and vocabulary between the two languages—such as (a) the loss of the forms of the ablative in Greek and of the middle voice in Latin; (b) the decay of the fricatives (s, v, i) in Greek and the cavalier treatment of the aspirates in Latin; and (c) the almost total discrepancy of the vocabularies of law and religion in the two languages—which altogether forbid the assumption that the two groups can ever have been completely identical after their first dialectic separation from the parent language. On the other hand, in the first early periods of that dialectic development in the Indo-European family, the precursors of Greek and Italic cannot have been separated by any very wide boundary. To this primitive neighbourhood may be referred such peculiarities as (a) the genitive plural feminine ending in -asom (Gr. -awv, later in various dialects -Ewv, -wv, -av; cf. Osc. egmazum " rerum "; Lat. mensarum, with -r- from-s-), (b) the feminine gender of many nouns of the -o- declension, cf. Gr. i] 6Bos, Lat. haec fdgus; and some important and ancient syntactical features, especially in the uses of the cases (e.g. (c) the genitive of price) of the (d) infinitive and of the (e) participles passive (though in each case the forms differ widely in the two groups), and perhaps (f) of the dependent moods (though here again the forms have been vigorously reshaped in Italic). These syntactic parallels, which are hardly noticed by Kretschmer in his otherwise careful discussion (Einteit. p. 155 seq.), serve to confirm his general conclusion which has been here adopted; because syntactic peculiarities have a long life and may survive not merely complete revolutions in morphology, but even a complete change in the speaker's language, e.g. such Celticisms in Irish-English as " What are you after doing?" for " What have you done?" or in Welsh-English as " whatever " for " anyhow." A few isolated correspondences in vocabulary, as in remus from *ret-s-mo-, with iperµbs and in a few plant-names (e.g. 7rpao-ov and porrum), cannot disturb the general conclusion, though no doubt they have some historical significance, if it could be determined. 7. Indo-Iranian and Italo-Celtic.—Only a brief reference can here be made to the strik°..g list of resemblances between the Indo-Iranian and Ita)10-Celtic groups, especially in vocabulary, which Kretschmer has collected (ibid. pp. 126-144). The most striking of these are rex, O. Ir. rig-, Sans. raj-, and the political meaning of the same root in the corresponding verb in both languages (contrast regere with the merely physical meaning of Gr. opeyvviu); Lat. flamen (for *flag-men) exactly= Sans. brahman- (neuter), meaning probably " sacrificing," " worship-ping," and then " priesthood," " priest," from the Ind.-Eur. root *bhelgh-, " blaze," " make to blaze "; re's, rem exactly = Sans. refs, ram in declension and especially in meaning; and Ario-, " noble," in Gallic Ariomanus, &c., = Sans. efrya-, " noble " (whence "Aryan "). So argentum exactly= Sans. rajata-, Zend erezata-; contrast the different (though morphologically kindred) suffix in Gr. apyvpos. Some forty-two other Latin or Celtic words (among then credere, caesaries, probus, castus (cf. Osc. kasit, Lat. caret, Sans. 3"ista-), Volcanus, Neptunus, ensis, erus, pruina, rus, novacula) have precise Sanskrit or Iranian equivalents, and none so near in any other of the eight groups of languages. Finally the use of an -r suffix in the third plural is common to both Italo-Celtic (see above) and Indo-Iranian. These things clearly point to a fairly close, and probably in part political, intercourse between the two communities of speakers at some early epoch. A shorter, but interesting, list of correspondences in vocabulary with 13alto-Slavonic (e.g. the words mentiri, ros, ignis have close equivalents in Balto-Slavonic) suggests that at the same period the precursor of this dialect too was a not remote neighbour. 8. Date of the Separation of the Italic Group.— The date at which the Italic group of languages began to have (so far as it had at all) a separate development of its own is at present only a matter of conjecture. But the combination of archaeological and linguistic research which has already begun can have no more interesting object than the approximate determination of this date (or group of dates); for it will give us a point of cardinal importance in the early history of Europe. The only consideration which can here be offered as a starting-point for the inquiry is the chronological relation of the Etruscan invasion, which is probably referable to the 12th century B.C. (see ETRURIA), to the two strata of Indo-European population—the -CO- folk (Falisci, Marruci, Volsci, Hernici and others), to whom the Tuscan invaders owe the names Etrusci and Tusci, and the -NO- folk, who, on the West coast, in the centre and south of Italy, appear at a distinctly later epoch, in some places (as in the Bruttian peninsula, see BRUTTII) only at the beginning of our historical record. If the view of Latin as mainly the tongue of the -CO- folk prove to be correct (see RoME: History; ITALY: Ancient Languages and Peoples; SABINI; VOLSCI) we must regard it (a) as the southern or earlier half of the Italic group, firmly rooted in Italy in the I2th century B.C., but (b) by no means yet isolated from contact with the northern or later half; such is at least the suggestion of the striking peculiarities in morphology which it shares with not merely Oscan and Umbrian, but also, as we have seen, with Celtic. The progress in time of this isolation ought before long to be traced with some approach to certainty.
End of Article: LATIN LANGUAGE
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